‘No need to panic’ despite land company’s £14,000 deficit

THE company set up to complete a community buy-out of the Rhubodach forest at the north end of Bute returned a £14,000 deficit in the year to the end of September 2011.

But the restricted and unrestricted funds available to Bute Community Land Company at the end of that period totalled more than £437,000 - meaning, in the words of the company’s independent examiner, Ronnie Smith, that there is “no reason for any kind of panic”.

Mr Smith’s explanation of the company’s accounts formed part of the annual general meeting of BCLC at Rothesay Joint Campus.

“As regards the deficit,” Mr Smith told the company’s directors and members, “I would just say that it is often the case in any new enterprise, whether in the voluntary or private sector, for the first two or three years to be difficult going.

“While you lost money during that year, you still had very substantial funds available at the end of it, and I would say it will be hoped that the next time these figures are presented, they would show a happier picture.

“I don’t see any reason in these accounts for any kind of panic”.

John McGhee QC, the chair of the BCLC’s board of directors, said the company’s main activities during the past 12 months had been supporting the island’s local development officer, Ciara Wilson, in the preparation of a community development plan for the island.

The meeting also heard reports from BCLC’s two wholly-owned subsidiary companies - Bute Forest Ltd, delivered by forest manager Emma Cooper, and Brandish Bute Ltd, given by BBL director Peter Vincent.

Ms Cooper said the focus of activity in the forest had been on making the land sustainable through the setting-up of a timber products business, while two employees had been taken on and a work experience programme put in place.

She also praised the level of volunteer involvement in the forest, and said there was now a waiting list of people keen to learn more about the timber business.

Mr Vincent admitted the past year had been “a challenge” for Brandish Bute, the company set up to market the island’s arts and crafts products under a single banner, but that a “re-worked” Brandish Bute website was about to be launched which, he said, would be easier for the company’s directors and volunteer helpers to maintain, update and enhance.

In response to a question from BCLC member Ian Hopkins, Brandish Bute director Sara Goss-Melvin said around 30 local producers sold their goods through the Brandish Bute shop in East Princes Street.

The meeting also agreed to continue the zero subscription rate for another year, although Alison Clarke suggested that the introduction of even a nominal fee might be a useful way for the company to keep track of its active membership; Mr McGhee said this could be considered at an EGM during the course of the next 12 months.

Mhairi McArthur, the only junior BCLC member present, agreed to be appointed to the BCLC board to represent the views of the company’s younger members, although she will not have a vote at board meetings.